To dare. “To have sufficient courage.” “To have the courage to contend against, venture, or try.” – Merriam Webster.
Daring is a strong word. What does it call to mind for you? Astronauts… Professional poker players… Christians? The reality is that daring has a vital place, both in business and in evangelization. Along with vision, Christian daring is a second must-have trait of the missionary evangelizer. Let’s turn first to examples of daring from secular leaders, then to how Christian daring can be a part of the New Evangelization.
Daring the Moon
On September 12, 1962, President J.F. Kennedy gave a moving manifestation of daring when he launched America to the moon. “We choose to go to the moon,” he said to a sweaty crowd at Rice Stadium in Texas. He continued:
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.
For Kennedy, it didn’t even matter that the technologies did not fully exist yet; he was confident that the United States would invent them and make it to the moon first!
Daring an Acquisition
As another example of daring, consider Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, the start-up company had about a dozen employees and no revenue. Because Mark Zuckerburg and his team had vision and daring, they were bold enough to purchase the company. About four years later, Instagram was valued around $35 billion and had become a great asset to Facebook’s stock. As countless entrepreneurs have attested to, there’s an ineradicable risk factor in innovation and business strategy; great leaders have to know what they want and then dare boldly.
Properties of Daring
Let’s now extract the properties of daring, thinking also about instances of daring in Christ’s life.
Risks Discomfort for Something Greater
First, as Kennedy freely admitted in his speech, daring necessitates risking discomfort for the sake of a greater advantage. There is a risk factor, an unknown element that may not work out as we are anticipating, but the goal is great enough that we are willing to risk losing something in our attempt to reach it. When Christ forgave the woman caught in adultery, for instance, He risked the anger of the witnesses for something He deemed greater: the conversion of the woman’s heart.
Daring is also dynamic: It is a spark that says, “It’s time to move!” or “It’s time to make a change!” In the Facebook example, daring impelled the Facebook team to make a move and acquire Instagram, before anyone else did. We might even think of how Christ called Matthew from the tax collector’s booth. When Christ dared to invite, “Follow me,” Matthew got up and followed Him (Matthew 9:9). Daring demands action!
In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant discusses a fascinating study of what Internet browsers that employees in customer service used and how committed they were to their jobs. Testing found that “employees who used Firefox or Chrome to browse the Web remained in their jobs 15 percent longer than those who used Internet Explorer or Safari.”
What explains this browser effect? Daring. Grant explains that Internet Explorer and Windows are automatically built into PCs and Macs. “To get Firefox or Chrome,” Grant says, “… you take a bit of initiative to seek out an option that might be better. And that act of initiative, however tiny, is a window into what you do at work.” In other words, those who dared to change their browsers also manifested daring in the workplace: taking initiative to adapt their jobs to their skillsets and making dynamic changes rather than just following the status quo. The dynamism of daring made them happier in their positions, resulting in longer-lasting commitments.
Holds Anxiety in Check
Finally, daring requires a leader to act with boldness, holding the tension of anxiety and worry in check. Think of the daring that Christ invites us to by teaching us to call God Father. He asks us to dare, with filial boldness, to pray for the greatest thing. He teaches us to dare to choose everything, to ask for the Holy Spirit, the greatest gift that the Father can give, and not doubt that we can be given this. All things are possible for someone who believes.
In It’s Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks, business leader Howard Behar points out that daring to reach our full potential can necessitate actually daring beyond our potential. Behar recounts how serious runners who take on a hundred-yard dash actually visualize a 110-yard dash. Thinking beyond their potential helps the runners to keep anxiety in check and not burn out in the last few miles of the race. According to Behar, “If you shortchange your dreams, if you shortchange your sense of who you are, you’ll shortchange your life.”
Christian Daring: Just What We Need?
Looked at in this light, is not daring exactly what we need as missionary evangelizers working for the New Evangelization?
Do not works of charity usually cause us to dare the loss of comfort or ease? Living as evangelizers demands that our faith flow from our hearts and mind into action, and this happens through a spirit of daring. Faith without works, after all, is dead (James 2: 14-26). Stopping to speak or give food to someone who is homeless or in need of help may be discomfiting; a spirit of daring strengthens us to reach beyond our fears and selfishness to give freely and act generously.
Consider the example of the Apostles as they lived out Christ’s commission to spread the Gospel. Eventually, the Apostles left their upper room of safety and security in order to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. They preached to the very ones who were threatening them! This dynamism and boldness of the Apostles’ life-witness reveals their daring, a daring that we are called to exhibit too.
We should also think about what might happen if we do not exhibit fortitude and daring as missionary evangelizers. Edmund Burke is attributed with saying that, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is for good men to do nothing.” If, as Catholics, we do not venture, do not try to share the Good News we have received, what will the consequence be? The void that we create when we lack daring will be filled with currents of gloom.
The Role of Daring in the New Evangelization
Evangelizers are people of hearty spirit who remind their culture of the value of striving for great things. When we pray in the Our Father, “Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven,” we are also praying that God’s will be done in our body (earth) as it is in our soul (heaven). We know that we have a will for good in our soul, but we often fail in our words or actions, our expression in our body. And yet, we still dare to hope and pray that the spiritual realm can shine more and more through who we are, even through our brokenness. What daring!
Err on the Side of Action
Evangelizers must calculate the risk, but need to err on the side of action instead of inaction. St. Augustine of Hippo said, “A Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot.” In other words, the identity of Christ must burst forth in action, not be stifled by a lack of absolute certainty. Christ wants to fill us with a spirit of Christian daring from head to toe! While we are unable to choose God perfectly in our weakened state, we are made to grow more and more in perfection of freedom throughout our lives, precisely through making choices, acting, and exercising our free choice to dare great things for Christ.
Evangelizers inspire others to remember that we were made for heaven and divine love rather than for earthly comfort. The big temptation in life is not to love. The temptation is to believe that if we do not risk love, we will be sheltered from suffering, from feeling heartbroken, from hurting. But, as disciples of Christ, we know this is the worst of lies! We were not created to be mediocre. Daring love, even if it hurts, is worth it. Daring extreme selflessness is a risk we must always be willing to take for the goal of life eternal.